Weather: Dull and overcast until 11:15 brief interludes of warm sunny periods
Recorders: Ashley Whitlock and Field Trippers
Location: Havant Thicket and Bells Copse
As usual today started off very cloudy and breezy and there didn't seem to be any hope of engaging without target species the Purple Emperor. We walked along the main ride from about 1030 and were generally looking at the rides where there were many Small Skippers, Large Skippers, Meadow Browns, Ringlets, and Marbled Whites. It gave everyone an opportunity to see the various species with wings open and shut just waiting for the sun to come out. We had got about two thirds of the way down the main ride where the Oak stands were now predominant, and the Sallow was getting very tall and very common on both sides of the rides, and here on a very large Oak I espied my first Emperor Oak edging, at about 1115 the sun had come out, and it was zipping in and out the tall oak sprigs going south along the ride.
We got to Bells Copse and I Explained about Assembly points and the Sallow stands along the Oak rides, and again at 1155 another male was seen going from east-to west. We were walking through Bells Copse counting the White Admirals, and Silver-Washed Fritillaries, when we saw the ‘Valezina’ species, which was probably the same one I had seen earlier in the week. What a treat to get so close to such a shy species! At 1215 another male was seen oak edging in the main ride, the weather by this time had cleared up and was very warm and sunny, and the males were now flying with much enthusiasm. Another was seen at 1230, and he was quite close to the ground and went up again into a sallow bush.
We had reached the area of the car-park and were all getting ready to eat our lunch when we all stopped in a small ride very close to the car-park, at 1300 when above our heads we saw three males two engaging in a chase in and out of the sprigs of oak, on an oak tree that was very small they were about 15 feet above us what a spectacle, in-out the chase went, then one went one way and the other went the other way, and then another male was seen on the opposite side on another oak, then they would come together again and the chase was on again, it wasn't Assembly Point 'fisticuffs’ think they were just frolicking in the sunshine. This behaviour went on for a good twenty minutes, and it was a joy to watch, were these Emperors just engaging in male testosterone antics or was it all in aid of looking for the female of the species. At one point I thought one of the males was a female as it did look a bit larger than the other male it was being chased by, but it wasn’t really behaving like a female. I had over the last few years had always thought this small ride should produce some sightings, but never on this scale. It is very sheltered here and with the warm sunshine these were ideal conditions for the Purple Emperor, and the oaks have lots of smaller sallow thickets, ideal for sallow searching. The oak where there was a lot of ‘engagement’ is only a small oak and the Emperors could be seen very easily, about 15-20 feet above our heads.